Here’s President Obama, speaking in Roanoke, Virginia, on Friday, July 13:
I’m always struck by people who think, “Well, it must be because I was just so smart.” There are a lot of smart people out there! “It must be because I worked harder than everybody else.” Let me tell you something: There are a whole bunch of hard workin’ people out there!
I believe with all my heart that it is the drive and the ingenuity of Americans who start businesses that lead to their success. I always have and I always will. The ability for somebody who’s willing to work hard, put in their sweat and their sacrifice to turn their idea into a profitable business, that’s the nature of America.
Trying to combine the two statements into a coherent perspective leaves me tempted to suggest that the missing part of the first speech was that the “whole bunch” of smart, hard-working people who didn’t succeed, per the president, must have lacked drive and ingenuity. (Perhaps in academia or the bureaucracy.)
One suspects that the controversy would have been greatly mitigated, if not erased, had the message of the Friday the 13th speech been, “Beyond the intelligence and work ethic that so many Americans display, it is the drive and ingenuity of entrepreneurs that allows them to turn our shared society and infrastructure into revolutionary and profitable enterprises.”
Of course, then there’s the part of the first speech where Obama talks about successful business owners’ not having created “this unbelievable American system that allowed you to thrive.” Or (more important) his vilifying, mocking, divisive tone.
It’s more likely that President Obama simply stated his opinion too bluntly in the first case and, chastened over the following week, has backpedaled to the focus-group-tested phrases to which people who share that opinion resort when their words might be broadly publicized.